Milwaukee Brewers' Mat Gamel (24) scores on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Lucroy, in front of Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto during the sixth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 9, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
With the trade deadline approaching and the Rangers rotation dealing with injuries, everyone has been focused on the mound when thinking about potential trades.
It turns out that we were looking at the wrong end of the battery. The Rangers confirmed Tuesday that they have acquired catcher Geovany Soto in a trade with the Cubs and that they have designated Yorvit Torrealba for assignment. There's a good chance the team will be able to pull off a trade sending Torrealba elsewhere, the Nationals are thought to be the frontrunner, but that's not really the main takeaway from the trade.
The main takeaway is flexibility. Soto, the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, is hitting just .199 this season, but he's an excellent defensive catcher and his past offensive totals have been stronger. Moving to Arlington in a lineup with other good hitters, as opposed to the lost causes in Chicago, could give him a shot in the arm over the next two months.
Even if his hitting remains mediocre or worse, Soto's presence allows the Rangers to keep Napoli in the lineup on a daily basis. Napoli can play first or DH with Soto catching and the Rangers could go that route full-time if Mitch Moreland and/or Michael Young continue to produce at the same rate that they've been stuck at all season.
Now, all of that was true with Torrealba as well. Torrealba is set to be a free agent after the season, though, and Soto is under team control through next season. That's significant as Napoli will also be a free agent and his play over the last two seasons at a position that doesn't have many offensive stars will make him a very popular attraction on the open market.
At worst, Soto gives the Rangers some protection in case they decide Napoli is too rich for their blood. At best, he hits enough to turn himself into a trade chip that brings back more than a Double-A non-prospect pitcher after the Rangers re-sign Napoli to a long-term deal. There are variations on those scenarios, but that's kinda the point.
Buying low on Soto opens up more doors for the Rangers in the future without closing any of them in the present. That should make this trade one for Jon Daniels' win column.
Now, about that pitching ...